Deals with Washington and Moscow may encourage riskier moves from Turkey - scholar

Ankara’s deals struck with the United States and Russia after Turkey launched a military offensive in northern Syria may encourage President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to continue his high-risk foreign policy, academic Yektan Türkyılmaz said on Wednesday.

Turkey last week paused its military offensive for 120 hours to allow the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to withdraw from an area between the northeast Syrian towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn, according to a deal agreed by Erdoğan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. 

Ankara plans to establish a safe zone in that region and to resettle many of the Syrian refugees currently hosted in Turkey. 

The Turkish Defence Ministry on Wednesday announced that Turkey would not resume the operation, after Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin inked another deal on northern Syria.

According to the Turkish-Russian deal, which Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu praised on Wednesday as a diplomatic and political success, the SDF will also withdraw 30 km south of areas west and east of Turkey’s safe zone

“The Turkish regime has been pulled from the edge of the cliff once more. First by the United States, then by Putin,” said Türkyılmaz, a visiting scholar at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin, in analysis he shared on Twitter. 

The academic referred to a previous article of his from January to explain that Turkey have been playing Russian roulette in recent years in a bid for diplomatic successes. 

In that article, Türkyılmaz listed Turkey's downing of a Russian jet along the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015 and its two previous military operations in Syria in 2017 and 2018 as risky manoeuvres the government had used for foreign policy gains. 

He said other actors in the region did not react to Turkey’s such moves as they had been also calculating the risks of a possible collapse of the Turkish government, which in turn had encouraged Ankara’s tendency for high-risk foreign policy. 

“It can be foreseen that the regime will now have more of an appetite for even riskier attempts,” Türkyılmaz said on Twitter in relation to the current situation. 

“And in all this tumult, there is nothing left aside from a more militarised state, an economic crisis that is likely to deepen, diplomatic isolation, and social delirium,” he said. 

“It is obvious that the regime in Turkey cannot develop any stance except to overcome crisis by creating even larger crises,” Türkyılmaz said, adding that the government might resort to other “crazy” attempts in Iraq and Cyprus after Syria.